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Chapter 18


Vronsky followed the guard to the carriage, and at the door of
the compartment he stopped short to make room for a lady who was
getting out.

With the insight of a man of the world, from one glance at this
lady's appearance Vronsky classified her as belonging to the best
society. He begged pardon, and was getting into the carriage,
but felt he must glance at her once more; not that she was very
beautiful, not on account of the elegance and modest grace which
were apparent in her whole figure, but because in the expression
of her charming face, as she passed close by him, there was
something peculiarly caressing and soft. As he looked round, she
too turned her head. Her shining gray eyes, that looked dark
from the thick lashes, rested with friendly attention on his
face, as though she were recognizing him, and then promptly
turned away to the passing crowd, as though seeking someone. In
that brief look Vronsky had time to notice the suppressed
eagerness which played over her face, and flitted between the
brilliant eyes and the faint smile that curved her red lips. It
was as though her nature were so brimming over with something
that against her will it showed itself now in the flash of her
eyes, and now in her smile. Deliberately she shrouded the light
in her eyes, but it shone against her will in the faintly
perceptible smile.

Vronsky stepped into the carriage. His mother, a dried-up old
lady with black eyes and ringlets, screwed up her eyes, scanning
her son, and smiled slightly with her thin lips. Getting up from
the seat and handing her maid a bag, she gave her little wrinkled
hand to her son to kiss, and lifting his head from her hand,
kissed him on the cheek.

"You got my telegram? Quite well? Thank God."

"You had a good journey?" said her son, sitting down beside her,
and involuntarily listening to a woman's voice outside the door.
He knew it was the voice of the lady he had met at the door.

"All the same I don't agree with you," said the lady's voice.

"It's the Petersburg view, madame."

"Not Petersburg, but simply feminine," she responded.

"Well, well, allow me to kiss your hand."

"Good-bye, Ivan Petrovitch. And could you see if my brother is
here, and send him to me?" said the lady in the doorway, and
stepped back again into the compartment.

"Well, have you found your brother?" said Countess Vronskaya,
addressing the lady.

Vronsky understood now that this was Madame Karenina.

"Your brother is here," he said, standing up. "Excuse me, I did
not know you, and, indeed, our acquaintance was so slight," said
Vronsky, bowing, "that no doubt you do not remember me."

"Oh, no," said she, "I should have known you because your mother
and I have been talking, I think, of nothing but you all the
way." As she spoke she let the eagerness that would insist on
coming out show itself in her smile. "And still no sign of my
brother."

"Do call him, Alexey," said the old countess. Vronsky stepped
out onto the platform and shouted:

"Oblonsky! Here!"

Madame Karenina, however, did not wait for her brother, but
catching sight of him she stepped out with her light, resolute
step. And as soon as her brother had reached her, with a gesture
that struck Vronsky by its decision and its grace, she flung her
left arm around his neck, drew him rapidly to her, and kissed him
warmly. Vronsky gazed, never taking his eyes from her, and
smiled, he could not have said why. But recollecting that his
mother was waiting for him, he went back again into the carriage.

"She's very sweet, isn't she?" said the countess of Madame
Karenina. "Her husband put her with me, and I was delighted to
have her. We've been talking all the way. And so you, I
hear...vous filez le parfait amour. Tant mieux, mon cher, tant
mieux."

"I don't know what you are referring to, maman," he answered
coldly. "Come, maman, let us go."

Madame Karenina entered the carriage again to say good-bye to the
countess.

"Well, countess, you have met your son, and I my brother," she
said. "And all my gossip is exhausted. I should have nothing
more to tell you."

"Oh, no," said the countess, taking her hand. "I could go all
around the world with you and never be dull. You are one of
those delightful women in whose company it's sweet to be silent
as well as to talk. Now please don't fret over your son; you
can't expect never to be parted."

Madame Karenina stood quite still, holding herself very erect,
and her eyes were smiling.

"Anna Arkadyevna," the countess said in explanation to her son,
"has a little son eight years old, I believe, and she has never
been parted from him before, and she keeps fretting over leaving
him."

"Yes, the countess and I have been talking all the time, I of my
son and she of hers," said Madame Karenina, and again a smile
lighted up her face, a caressing smile intended for him.

"I am afraid that you must have been dreadfully bored," he said,
promptly catching the ball of coquetry she had flung him. But
apparently she did not care to pursue the conversation in that
strain, and she turned to the old countess.

"Thank you so much. The time has passed so quickly. Good-bye,
countess."

"Good-bye, my love," answered the countess. "Let me have a kiss
of your pretty face. I speak plainly, at my age, and I tell you
simply that I've lost my heart to you."

Stereotyped as the phrase was, Madame Karenina obviously believed
it and was delighted by it. She flushed, bent down slightly, and
put her cheek to the countess's lips, drew herself up again, and
with the same smile fluttering between her lips and her eyes, she
gave her hand to Vronsky. He pressed the little hand she gave
him, and was delighted, as though at something special, by the
energetic squeeze with which she freely and vigorously shook his
hand. She went out with the rapid step which bore her rather
fully-developed figure with such strange lightness.

"Very charming," said the countess.

That was just what her son was thinking. His eyes followed her
till her graceful figure was out of sight, and then the smile
remained on his face. He saw out of the window how she went up
to her brother, put her arm in his, and began telling him
something eagerly, obviously something that had nothing to do
with him, Vronsky, and at that he felt annoyed.

"Well, maman, are you perfectly well?" he repeated, turning to
his mother.

"Everything has been delightful. Alexander has been very good,
and Marie has grown very pretty. She's very interesting."

And she began telling him again of what interested her most--the
christening of her grandson, for which she had been staying in
Petersburg, and the special favor shown her elder son by the
Tsar.

"Here's Lavrenty," said Vronsky, looking out of the window; "now
we can go, if you like."

The old butler who had traveled with the countess, came to the
carriage to announce that everything was ready, and the countess
got up to go.

"Come; there's not such a crowd now," said Vronsky.

The maid took a handbag and the lap dog, the butler and a porter
the other baggage. Vronsky gave his mother his arm; but just as
they were getting out of the carriage several men ran suddenly by
with panic-stricken faces. The station-master, too, ran by in
his extraordinary colored cap. Obviously something unusual had
happened. The crowd who had left the train were running back
again.

"What?... What?... Where?... Flung himself!... Crushed!..."
was heard among the crowd. Stepan Arkadyevitch, with his sister
on his arm, turned back. They too looked scared, and stopped at
the carriage door to avoid the crowd.

The ladies go in, while Vronsky and Stepan Arkadyevitch followed
the crowd to find out details of the disaster.

A guard, either dunk or too much muffled up in the bitter frost,
had not heard the train moving back, and had been crushed.

Before Vronsky and Oblonsky came back the ladies heard the facts
from the butler.

Oblonsky and Vronsky had both seen the mutilated corpse.
Oblonsky was evidently upset. He frowned and seemed ready to
cry.

"Ah, how awful! Ah, Anna, if you had seen it! Ah, how awful!"
he said.

Vronsky did not speak; his handsome face was serious, but
perfectly composed.

"Oh, if you had seen it, countess," said Stepan Arkadyevitch.
"And his wife was there.... It was awful to see her!.... She
flung herself on the body. They say he was the only support of
an immense family. How awful!"

"Couldn't one do anything for her?" said Madame Karenina in an
agitated whisper.

Vronsky glanced at her, and immediately got out of the carriage.

"I'll be back directly, maman," he remarked, turning round in the
doorway.

When he came back a few minutes later, Stepan Arkadyevitch was
already in conversation with the countess about the new singer,
while the countess was impatiently looking towards the door,
waiting for her son.

"Now let us be off," said Vronsky, coming in. They went out
together. Vronsky was in front with his mother. Behind walked
Madame Karenina with her brother. Just as they were going out of
the station the station-master overtook Vronsky.

"You gave my assistant two hundred roubles. Would you kindly
explain for whose benefit you intend them?"

"For the widow," said Vronsky, shrugging his shoulders. "I
should have thought there was no need to ask."

"You gave that?" cried Oblonsky, behind, and, pressing his
sister's hand, he added: "Very nice, very nice! Isn't he a
splendid fellow? Good-bye, countess."

And he and his sister stood still, looking for her maid.

When they went out the Vronsky's carriage had already driven
away. People coming in were still talking of what happened.

"What a horrible death!" said a gentleman, passing by. "They say
he was cut in two pieces."

"On the contrary, I think it's the easiest--instantaneous,"
observed another.

"How is it they don't take proper precautions?" said a third.

Madame Karenina seated herself in the carriage, and Stepan
Arkadyevitch saw with surprise that her lips were quivering, and
she was with difficulty restraining her tears.

"What is it, Anna?" he asked, when they had driven a few hundred
yards.

"It's an omen of evil," she said.

"What nonsense!" said Stepan Arkadyevitch. "You've come, that's
the chief thing. You can't conceive how I'm resting my hopes on
you."

"Have you known Vronsky long?" she asked.

"Yes. You know we're hoping he will marry Kitty."

"Yes?" said Anna softly. "Come now, let us talk of you," she
added, tossing her head, as though she would physically shake off
something superfluous oppressing her. "Let us talk of your
affairs. I got your letter, and here I am."

"Yes, all my hopes are in you," said Stepan Arkadyevitch.

"Well, tell me all about it."

And Stepan Arkadyevitch began to tell his story.

On reaching home Oblonsky helped his sister out, sighed, pressed
her hand, and set off to his office.



Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Category:
Fiction - Russian literature
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